First pitch: Tazawa a revelation for Red Sox


First pitch: Tazawa a revelation for Red Sox

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- September is supposed to be a month for evaluations, a time to take stock of how far prospects have come and how far they have to go.

In the case of the Red Sox, two of their most important pieces -- catcher Ryan Lavarnway and shortstop Jose Iglesias -- have struggled more than they've starred.

Iglesias, who has been brilliant in the field at times, has just two hits in more than 30 plate appearances while Lavarnway has, at times, appeared overmatched both defensively and offensively.

Then, there is the case of Junichi Tazawa.

Tazawa is not as inexperienced as Iglesias and Lavarnway are, of course, having first pitched in the big leagues in 2009. But that was before Tommy John surgery cost him all of 2010 and a chunk of 2011, too, sidelining his career before it got started.

In the second half of the season, however, the 26-year-old has been a relevation. Monday night, in the Red Sox' 5-2 win over the Tampa Bay Rays, Tazawa came in for the seventh and retired the side in order, two by stirkeouts.

In 30 games this year -- most since Aug. 1, his third stint with the club this season -- Tazawa has a 1.43 ERA, and a tidy 1.06 WHIP. He's averaged more than a strikeout per inning and showed impeccable control, walking just five in 37 23 innings.

And the more he's pitched, the more dominant he's been. Over his last eight appearances, he's allowed just two baserunners -- a single and a walk, with 14 strikeouts over 7 23 scoreless innings. In each of his last four appearances, he's had multiple strikeouts and has allowed no more than one baserunner. Dating back to 2003, the only other Red Sox pitcher
to have such a run of dominance was Jonathan Papelbon.

Of the last 40 hitters Tazawa has faced, he's fanned 19 of them.

"You can't throw a ball any better than he's throwing it," said Bobby Valentine. "It's impossible to throw it better -- it really is."

His velocity has not only rebounded from the elbow surgery; it's actually gotten better. Once, Tazawa's fastball was regularly in the low 90s; now, he is routinely in the mid-90s.

"The confidence is definitely there, along with some good nerves,'' said Tazawa. "Each at-bat, I focus on each pitch, each at-bat and the results have been good. Before I had Tommy John, my elbow used to just swell up a little bit, and I wasn't able to throw the way I wanted to. I wasn't hitting the velocity I knew I was capable of.

"Right now, I think I'm finally starting to pitch the way I want to, reach the velocity I want to and the results have been there."

Tazawa's dominance has resulted in Valentine using him in more high-leverage spots. Often, he's been the seventh inning set-up option, used an inning before Vicente Padilla is entrusted with the eighth.

Monday night, after Rich Hill tossed a scoreless inning in relief of starter Aaron Cook, it was Tazawa who got the eighth.

His work this year may make him an integral part of the 2013 bullpen, but he's taking nothing for granted about his future.

"My role to be prepared whenever I'm called upon,'' he said. "I don't worry about when I'm throwing. I'm more worried about just being prepared whenever it is. I haven't really thought about next season yet. I'm more focused on finishing this season strong and being prepared whenever I'm called upon this season."

Tazawa, who started in Japan and did so again briefly when he first reached the big leagues with the Red Sox, said he'd be open to going back to the rotation, but said that is still to be determined.

"I just came back and I'm still proving myself right now," Tazawa said. ''It's just focusing on the task I'm given at the moment and make sure I produce the results that the team is expecting from me."

Red Sox' seven-run rally in seventh keys 9-4 win over Rangers

Red Sox' seven-run rally in seventh keys 9-4 win over Rangers

BOSTON -- Chris Sale was perfectly happy to sit back and watch the Red Sox hitters do the work this time.

Sale cruised into the fifth inning, then was rewarded in the seventh when the Boston batters erupted for seven runs on their way to a 9-4 victory over the Texas Rangers on Wednesday night.

Sale (5-2) struck out six, falling short in his attempt to become the first pitcher in baseball's modern era to strike out at least 10 batters in nine straight games in one season.

But he didn't seem to mind.

"It was fun," said the left-hander, who received more runs of support in the seventh inning alone than while he was in any other game this season. "You get run after run, hit after hit. When we score like that, it's fun."

Dustin Pedroia waved home the tiebreaking run on a wild pitch, then singled in two more as the Red Sox turned a 3-1 deficit into a five-run lead and earned their third straight victory. Sam Travis had two singles for the Red Sox in his major league debut.

"I was a little nervous in the first inning," he said. "I'd be lying to you guys if I said I wasn't."

Mike Napoli homered for Texas, which has lost three of four to follow a 10-game winning streak.


Sale, who also struck out 10 or more batters in eight straight games in 2015 with the White Sox, remains tied for the season record with Pedro Martinez. (Martinez had 10 straight in a span from 1999-2000.)

After scoring four runs in support of Sale in his first six starts, the Red Sox have scored 27 while he was in the game in his last five. He took a no-hitter into the fifth, but finished with three earned runs, six hits and a walk in 7 1/3 innings.

"Guys pulled through for me when I was probably pretty mediocre," he said.


Sam Dyson (1-5) faced seven batters in relief of Martin Perez and gave up four hits, three walks - two intentional - and a wild pitch without retiring a batter.

"Martin threw the ball really well and I came in with two guys on and couldn't get an out," Dyson said. "Sometimes they hit them where they are, and sometimes they hit them where they aren't."

Asked if he felt any different, he said: "Everything's the same.

"If I get my (expletive) handed to me, it's not like anything's wrong," he said. "Any more amazing questions from you all?"


It was 3-1 until the seventh, when Andrew Benintendi and Travis singled with one out to chase Perez. Mitch Moreland singled to make it 3-2, pinch-hitter Josh Rutledge singled to tie it and, after Mookie Betts was intentionally walked to load the bases, Moreland scored on a wild pitch to give Boston the lead.

Pedroia singled in two more runs, Xander Bogaerts doubled and Hanley Ramirez was intentionally walked to load the bases. Dyson was pulled after walking Chris Young to force in another run.

Austin Bibens-Dirkx got Benintendi to pop up foul of first base, but Napoli let it fall safely - his second such error in the game. Benintendi followed with a sacrifice fly that made it 8-3 before Travis was called out on strikes to end the inning.


Rangers: 2B Rougned Odor was shaken up when he dived for Betts' grounder up the middle in the third inning. He was slow getting up. After being looked at by the trainer, he remained in the game.

Red Sox: LHP David Price made his second rehab start for Triple-A Pawtucket, allowing six runs - three earned - seven hits and a walk. He struck out four in 3 2/3 innings, throwing 89 pitches, 61 for strikes, and left without addressing reporters. 3B Pablo Sandoval also played in the game, going 2 for 4 with two runs.

"He felt fine physically," said Red Sox manager John Farrell, who added he would talk to Price on Thursday morning to determine how to proceed. "We had a scout there who liked what he saw."


Rangers: Will send RHP Nick Martinez (1-2) to the mound in the finale of the three-game series.

Red Sox: LHP Drew Pomeranz (3-3) looks to snap a personal two-game losing streak.

David Price dodges media after second rough rehab start

David Price dodges media after second rough rehab start

If only David Price could pitch as well as he dodges the media.

The Red Sox lefty bailed on a typical post-start media session with reporters in Pawtucket on Wednesday, after his second minor league rehab outing in Triple-A was another dud.

As Price comes back from a nondescript elbow injury, difficulty retiring minor league hitters doesn't combine well with difficulty facing questions. He sat in the mid-90s in his second rehab start with Pawtucket, but allowed six runs, three earned, in 3 2/3 innings. He struck out four and walked one.

The PawSox were at home at McCoy Stadium against Triple-A Louisville, a Reds affiliate, and Price heard some heckling. Postgame, he wanted to hear nothing, apparently.

Per CSNNE’s Bill Messina, who was on site in Pawtucket, the media was waiting outside the clubhouse for Price, as is standard. 

PawSox media relations told the media to go to the weight room, where Price would meet them. As media headed that way, PR alerted reporters that Price was leaving and did not want to talk. Media saw a car leaving, but there was no interview.

On the mound, Price’s velocity is there, but the command is not. The Red Sox would be unwise to bring back Price before really two more minor league starts — one to show he can do well, another to show he can repeat it.

Price’s ERA in two starts for Pawtucket is 9.53. He’s gone 5 2/3 innings and allowed six earned runs, while striking out eight and walking two overall.